| Germany commenced direct preparations for the war with
Poland in the early spring of 1939. On 3 April German generals
presented to Adolf Hitler the outline directive of the Wehrmacht
deployment in 1939-1940. Its second part, codenamed Fall Weiß, dealt with the plan of
destroying of the Polish armed forces. That plan had to be realized by
surprise attack of concentric thrusts from Silesia, Pomerania and East
Prussia, beating the Polish armies concentrated in the west of the the
rivers Vistula and Narew, and then pursuit eastwards to prevent the
Poles to rebuild their defences along Narew, Vistula and San. The focal
point of those thrusts was Warsaw, the capital of Poland and its major
political, administrative and economical centre, which was supposed to
be taken in the third, and last, phase of the war.
The German land forces, under the command of Gen. Walther von
Brauchitsch, were organized in two Army Groups: North (Nord) and South (Süd). They concentrated for the
attack on Poland 1,600,000 soldiers (and further 200,000 in the navy
and air force), as well as 11,000 guns and mortars, 2,800 tanks, and
1,600 aircraft; 25 capital ships had to operate in the Baltic Sea.
The main task in the war with Poland was assigned to the Army Group South (8th, 10th and 14th Armies
under Gen. Gerd von Rundstedt). Starting from Silesia, Moravia and
Slovakia, the Army Group South
had to unfold the offensive on Warsaw between the rivers Bzura and
Wieprz, and beat the Polish forces in southern and central Poland.
Army Group North (3rd and 4th
Armies under Gen. Fedor von Bock) had to establish contact between
Pomerania and East Prussia, and from then strike from East Prussia to
create the eastern flank of encirclement around Warsaw, and close the
ring around the bulk of the Polish forces.
The 1st and 4th Air Fleets (under Gen. Albert Kesselring and Alexander
Löhr) in the first phase had to attack and destroy Polish airfields, as
well as Polish air force's bases and supplies. In the second phase,
after grasping the command of the air, they had to strike against the
deep operational rears of the Polish armies, to paralyze their
mobilization, concentration, system of command, and retreat.
Air forces also had to follow advancing land forces, mainly in the
sectors of operation of the armoured troops. A special attention was
attached to terroristic attacks on the Polish cities, towns and
villages. The lightning war did not mean merely destruction of the
enemy armed forces. It was going to become a total war, aimed at
overwhelming the whole nation.
The Navy Group East (Ost) under the command of Adm.
Konrad Albrecht, comprised of 2 battleships, 9 destroyers and 14
submarines, with auxiliary ships, was assigned to destroying the Polish
Navy in the Gulf of Danzig, securing communication lines between the
Reich and East Prussia, and supporting German troops operating in
Auxiliary tasks in the war with Poland were assigned to subversive
actions (so-called "fifth column"). Organization and realization of the
subversive actions in direct connection with the military operations
was assigned to the III Foreign Affairs/Defence Office (Amt Ausland/Abwehr) of the Armed
Forces High Command. In the operational zone of the Army Groups North and South the direct preparation and
realization of the subversive and intelligence operations was organized
by the detached units of the III Office in Breslau, Stettin, Koslin and
Allenstein, as well as many frontier towns. They widely used agents
recruited among the German minority in Poland. The task of the
subversive groups was to seize important industrial and administrative
objects, prevent them from destruction by the retreating Polish troops,
and hold them until the arrival of the regular German troops. The main
area of the subversive actions was supposed to be the Upper Silesia -
Poland's most industrialized region. There were to operate groups
formed in the German part of the Upper Silesia as paramilitary squads
of the Freikorps Ebbinghaus
and clandestine cells of the Kampf
und Sabotageorganisation. In Pomerania similar groups were
formed among the members of the local Selbstschutz.
Towards the end of July subversive groups, trained in the Wehrmacht camps, were gradually
assuming their positions along the Polish frontier. Later, on 15 and 16
August there came orders to start transfers of the weapons to Poland to
arm German subversive groups. The Abwehr
office in Stettin attached a particular importance to the operations on
the communications linking the Reich and East Prussia, and seizing
intact railway bridges in Grudziadz and Tczew.
The reports of the Polish intelligence kept revealing the alarming
situation on the western frontier since March 1939. In July the General
Staff and the General Inspectorate of the Armed Forces had no more
doubts that deployment of the German divisions along the Polish border
meant concentration of the Wehrmacht's
bulk forces. What remained to be determined was when and where Poland
would be attacked.
As soon as on 23 March 1939 Poland implemented partial, so-called
alert, that is secret, mobilization, and started deploying mobilized
troops along the German border stretched along 1,500 kilometres from
the Augustów Forest in the north-east to the Carpathian Mountains in
the south. Those were, however, only few infantry divisions and cavalry
brigades, which were not able to secure adequate defence of the
Economically and militarily Poland was manyfold weaker than Germany,
and her strategic position did not favour defence, but favoured an
invasion. In the north the area of East Prussia was looming over the
vital centres of the country. Together with the "pincers" of Pomerania
and Silesia it created a very convenient initial position for deep
thrusts into the Polish rears. Warsaw, the capital of Poland, its
political and administrative centre, and important industrial centre
and a node of communications, at that time was located very close to
the German borders: 270km from Silesia, 220km from Pomerania, and
merely 120km from East Prussia. In case of a war Warsaw, as well as
strategically and economically important areas were within the range of
the enemy air forces, and in some places even long-range artillery.
The first briefing concerning the plan of the war with Germany took
place at the General Staff on 4 March 1939. By the end of March there
was worked out general plan of the deployment and tasks of the Polish
armies and operation groups. That plan, codenamed Zachód (West), outlined in very general
terms the following concept of the defensive battle:
Taking into consideration factors of the economical nature, as well as
possibility of only local offensive actions in Upper Silesia, Pomerania
or Danzig, the General Inspector of the Armed Forces, Marshal Edward
Śmigły-Rydz decided to fight a defensive battle along the western
frontiers. On 23 March 1939 the commanders of the Polish armies and
operation groups received their orders:
- to defend the areas vital for the war effort, and
inflict on the Germans the heaviest losses possible,
- to use all opportunities to counter-attack with the
reserves, and prevent main forces from being defeated before the
beginning of the Allied offensive in the West,
- to undertake, upon the Allied offensive, and
relieving the Polish front, offensive operations according to the
The reserves had to be formed gradually after the proclamation of the
general mobilization. They were supposed to build up around the Army Prusy (Gen. Biernacki-Dąb) deployed
in the rears of the armies Łódź
and Kraków, in a huge
triangle Kielce - Radom - Tomaszow Mazowiecki; its units would
reinforce armies Łódź and Kraków i the sectors where the
Germans might break through their defences. Further areas of
concentration of the Polish reserves were planned in the north, along
the River Narew, and in the south, around Tarnow.
- Independent Operation Group Narew (Gen. Czesław
Fijałkowski-Młot) had to assume defence on the north-eastern flank of
the Germano-Polish border.
- Army Modlin
(Gen. Emil Przedrzymirski-Krukowicz) had to block the northern
approaches to Warsaw from East Prussia.
- Army Pomorze
(Gen, Władysław Bortnowski), concentrated in the Tuchola Forest and on
the River Osa, had to hold Polish Pomerania.
- Army Poznań
(Gen. Tadeusz Kutrzeba) had to hold Posnania.
- Army Łódź
(Gen, Juliusz Rómmel) was assigned to block the south-western axis of
advance from Silesia to Warsaw.
- Army Kraków
(Gen. Antoni Szylling) had to defend Upper Silesia and the Carpathian
- Army Karpaty
(Gen. Kazimierz Fabrycy) in the Carpathian Mountains had to close the
passes across the border with the German puppet, the Slovak State.
Yet, full mobilization could not be carried out due to mediation of the
Western democracies, which tried to avoid confrontation with Hitler at
any price. Eventually Poland was able to put forward about 1 million of
regular troops and 300 thousand men in popular militia, 900
tanks and armoured cars, 2,000 guns, and about 400 aircraft.
Gen. Kutrzeba received his orders regarding the defence of Posnania on
23 March 1939. By then he had already completed his staff. The position
of Posnania, bulging westward, did not make convenient conditions to
its defenders. From there it was possible to launch offensive
operations in three strategic directions: to Pomerania, to Silesia, and
(hypothetically) to Berlin. An offensive on Berlin could be considered
only in the categories of strategic theories. Although such concepts
used to be examined at the French General Staff, Poland, till the
spring of 1939, did not even undertook any serious studies of a
possible war with its western neighbour. Besides, any offensive
operations were ruled out due to weakness of the Polish army and Polish
economy as compared to their German opponents. On the other hand,
passive defence in Posnania would let the Germans a free hand to drive
deep, outflanking thrusts from Pomerania or Silesia towards Warsaw, cut
all its communications with the rest of the country, get to the deep
rears of the Army Poznań, and
eliminate it as a considerable factor in the war.
Nevertheless, despite of the military reasons against the defence of
Posnania, which had to be deployed in the area deprived of natural
obstacles to the advancing forces, four infantry divisions and two
cavalry brigades were deployed along Poland's western border. The
decision to do so was influenced by the factors of political and
economical nature. Political reasons demanded that not an inch of
Posnania would be surrendered to avoid creating an impression that
Poland yielded to the German demands and is ready to make territorial
concessions. Moreover, Posnania was a great source of food and human
reserves, and its people were reputed for good soldiers; just 20 years
before, in 1918-1919 they rose against the German rule and liberated
their part of Poland regaining her independence.
The Polish intelligence did not detect any serious concentrations of
the German troops on the other side of the border. Army Poznań faced only border guard
units (Grenzschutz), incapable
to engage in full-scale combat actions. So, a direct attack on Posnania
was not expected, but it was necessary to close the axis Frankfurt -
Poznan, and deploy reconnaissance units on the flanks to scout the
From the onset there emerged a difference of opinions about the role of
the Army Poznań in the war.
Marshal Rydz insisted that the main German offensive would be driven
from Frankfurt via Poznan to Warsaw, and ordered to resist that
offensive. In Kutrzeba's opinion the Army Poznań had to reinforce the efforts
of its neighbours: Army Łódź
in the south, on the line of the rivers Warta and Widawka, and Army Pomorze in the north in Pomerania.
According to this concept, Kutrzeba detached three infantry divisions
and one cavalry brigade to hold the line Naklo - Kcynia - Wagrowiec -
Oborniki - Poznan - Srem - Krotoszyn - Ostrow Wielkopolski. This was
the first, so-called "protective", line of the Polish defence. The
second, "spanning", line was prepared with the rest of the forces
According to Kutrzeba's design, after exhausting all possibilities of
fighting on those defence lines, the Army Poznań had to retreat, while waging
impeding fights. to the main defence running from Bydgoszcz in the
north, to Znin and Goplo lakes, to Uniejow the River Warta in the
south. There the Polish defence was supposed to be reinforced with
mobilized reserves of the Supreme Command: 2 infantry divisions from
the Operation Group Kutno
concentrated in the triangle Kutno - Plock - Wloclawek. In case of
another development of the situation, the Operation Group Kutno could reinforce the Army Pomorze or Army Modlin on the River Drweca. Another
option foresaw engaging the reserves of the Supreme Command on the
junction of the Armies Poznań
and Łódź, especially in case
of a battle on the Warta.
Concentration of the army, realized within the framework of the general
mobilization plan, was carried out as consecutive phases of the alert
mobilization led to the general mobilization. They depended on the
current political situation, and the estimation of the build up of the Wehrmacht forces concentrated along
the Polish borders. First deployment of the units of the Army Poznań came as soon as in March
1939 within the framework of the partial alert mobilization. The 37th
Infantry Regiment and some auxiliary units were brought in the vicinity
of Wagrowiec. By July the whole 26th Infantry Division completed its
deployment on the western border. The Podolska
Cavalry Brigade, mobilized at the end of August, was assuming its
positions already under the German bombs. Whereas the 14th, 17th and
25th Infantry Divisions, Wielkopolska
Cavalry Brigade, popular militia brigades Poznańska and Kaliska, 7th Heavy Artillery
Regiment, 3rd Air Regiment and attached squadron of armoured trains
remained in their garrisons, and upon mobilization undertook
fortification tasks. The headquarters of the Army Poznań were prepared in Gniezno
where General Kutrzeba arrived with his staff at night from 28 to 29
August from Poznan.
Beginning of the first days of the alert mobilization, garrisons
throughout the Posnania remained in the state of permanent combat
readiness. Being alternately engaged in service duties, training or
fortification works, they were ready to engage the invading enemy. As
mobilization proceeded, the units of the Army Poznań concentrated according to
Kutrzeba's plan as follows: the 26th Infantry Division (Col. Adam
Ajdukiewicz-Brzechwa) assumed defences around Wagrowiec; the 14th
Infantry Division (Gen. Franciszek Wład) covered Poznan - the main
administrative, industrial and communication centre; Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade (Gen.
Roman Abraham) deployed along the middle Warta, with the main points of
defence around Smigiel, Leszno and Rawicz; the 25th Infantry Division
(Gen. Franciszek Alter) - on the River Prosna along the line Krotoszyn
- Ostrow Wielkopolski - Kalisz.
Fortification began on the turn of March and April, at once on limited
scale due to the lack of precise directives from the Supreme Command,
and necessity to spare crops. Directives and plans from the Supreme
Command came in June, and fortification intensified, especially in the
areas of Znin, Kolo, Wagrowiec, Poznan and Kalisz.
Defence preparations and growing political tensions in the
Germano-Polish relations revealed another problem. Anti-Polish among
the local Germans was growing. Young men of German nationality used to
dodge the conscription and defect to Germany, where they volunteered
for the Wehrmacht or subversive "fifth column". Inside Poland they made
a sophisticated network of German agents, gathering arms, providing
valuable intelligence data, and maintaining proscription lists of the
Poles intended to be eliminated, especially the veterans of the
1918-1919 uprising. Smartly concealed radio-transmitters reported
movements of the Polish military units.
Meanwhile there were passing the last days of August 1939, full of
apparent everyday's routine, under which were concealed unrest, tension
and dread. Just like in the whole country, also in Posnania people were
recruited to dig trenches, anti-tank ditches and air-raid trench
shelters. In Poznan they dug 25km of trenches; in Leszno - 6km and in
Inowroclaw - 14km. The action of canvassing donations on the state
defence - Anti-Air Defence Fund (POP), Naval Defence Fund (FOM),
National Defence Fund (FON) - brought more than 30 million złotys.
Very popular were paramilitary and social aid organizations - Anti-Air
Defence (OPL), Polish Red Cross (PCK), Military Training (PW), Women's
Military Training (PWK), Polish Western Union (PZZ), Rural Armed
Emergency (PZW), Federation of the Polish Unions of Homeland Defenders'
(FPZOO) and others. The Social Information Network (SSI) recruited
volunteers to carry out special tasks, intelligence and sabotage, in
the rears of the invading armies. On 23 August, by Kutrzeba's order,
SSI cells started collecting arms and explosives in secret hide-outs,
where they had to await the hostilities.
Beginning of 24 August permanent combat alert was in effect in all
garrisons, and mobilized reservists called to arms started gathering in
the barracks. General mobilization, announced few days later, completed
the preparations for the combat operations. On 29 and 30 August arrived
orders to deploy the troops on the combat positions and be prepared to
repel an enemy attack.
Regiments 10th and 37th from the 26th Infantry Division assumed
positions in the west of Golancza and Wagrowiec; their northern wing
was covered by a battalion detached from the 18th Infantry Regiment.
The rest of the 18th Rgt., and Popular Militia Battalion Żnin were kept in reserve and
assigned to cover the division's headquarters at Wapno Nowe.
In the western approaches of Poznan the 14th Infantry Division deployed
the Poznańska Popular
Brigade in the first line, and the 57th Infantry Regiment in the second
line; cavalry units were assigned to cover their southern wing. The 7th
Mounted Rifles Regiment from the Wielkopolska
Cavalry Brigade was deployed between Poznan and Oborniki. Reserve
cavalry units were deployed in Swarzedz, and the 58th Regiment was
covering the division's headquarters in Murowana Goslina.
Detached Units Czempiń, Leszno and Rawicz, composed of the units of
the 17th Lancers Regiment and 55th Infantry Regiment were assigned to
hold positions along the state border, while along the River Warta were
deployed Popular Militia Battalions Rawicz,
Kościan, Leszno, Jarocin and one battalion from the
68th Infantry Regiment of the 17th Infantry Division. They were under
the command of the headquarters of the Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade in
Srem. Reserves - 55th Infantry Regiment, one reserve battalion, and
15th Lancers Regiment - were concentrated at Zaniemysl.
The 25th Infantry Division assigned two of its infantry regiments to
hold the line of the River Prosna, 56th at Krotoszyn and 60th at Ostrow
Wielkopolski. while in the second line there were deployed the 70th
Infantry Regiment from the 17th Infantry Division near Stawiszyn, and
the 29th Regiment near Kalisz, where the division had its headquarters.
The rest of the 17th Division was concentrated in the reserve near
Wrzesnia and Gniezno, where was also the division's headquarters, while
the Podolska Cavalry Brigade
was arriving by the railways and concentrating near Nekla.